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Ethiopia: Towards a failed state under Abiy Ahmed’s  Regime, the new Gaddafi of Africa  

Ethiopia
Map of Ethiopian Regions

By Cristina Taylor

I have been following the political development of African countries in recent years. One of the  countries that attracted my attention is Ethiopia. This is a country that has never been  colonized and it has symbolized freedom and independence for Pan-African movements.  Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in the world and the second most populous country in  Africa, after Nigeria, with an estimated population of 123 million (WB, 2022). The country is  home for over 83 ethnic groups that have diverse cultures, languages or dialects. The Ethiopian  people have lived together for centuries and, hence, are interconnected through various social  institutions, intermarriage, economic ties, and local administrations. 

Despite the many years of such rich social and cultural capital, I was shocked by the ethno political organizations that have dominated the political landscape of the country in its recent  history. 

Even in comparison to other African countries, most of the Ethiopian politicians locked themselves into ethnic-based ideologies and the successive political regimes, especially in the past three decades, have used contentious ethnic and religious tools to divide and rule the  country under ethnic federalism. The country has been divided into eleven national regional  states and city administrations by grouping themselves into dominant ethnic group(s) within ill demarcated ethnic and physical boundaries, subsuming smaller nationalities or ethnic groups. The institutionalization of ethnicity and the division of the country into ethnic based states was  institutionalized in the 1995 constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, which  uniquely provides every nation, nationality or ethnically organized regional states with the  unconditional right for self-determination, including the right to secession. 

This ethno-political arrangement has never brought equality and unity among its diverse  people. Instead, the political landscape has been manipulated by ethnically organized parties  backed by armed groups. Accordingly, the country was ruled for 32 years (1991-2018) by the ethnically organized political regime led by the Tigray People Liberation Front(TPLF) / Ethiopian  People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). During the past five years (2018-2023), it has  been ruled by the former Oromo People Democratic Orgnization, OPDO, or the Oromo led  Prosperity Party. 

Although the TPLF was removed from power in 2018; it remained the greatest challenge to the  Oromo-led Prosperity Party under its Chairman Abiy Ahmed. According to some African Union  sources, the political confrontation between the two parties resulted in brutal civil war from  2020 to 2022 and claimed the lives of over 600,000 people and displaced over two million  people in the northern part of the country (Afar, Amhara, and Tigray). 

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed power through the party system of the defunct TPLF/  EPRDF internal succession procedure representing the then Oromo People Democratic  Organization, a coalition of EPRDF. However, Abiy broke with the party’s culture and he turned  his back on the TPLF by emerging as a ‘political hacker’. Using populism to gain political  legitimacy, he consolidated his personal power and manipulated the political marketplace to  primarily stroke his ego, and serve his interest and priorities. He used softer tactics of  photogenic leadership and sugar-coated public speeches deceiving the commons. The true political face of Abiy became visible in recent months resembling the late dictator Muammar  Gaddafi of Libya. He brought all the security, military, economic, judiciary and media  institutions under his direct command and he has attempted to exercise control over religious  institutions including the Ethiopia Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Muslim and the Ethiopian  Evangelical Churches. This political game is now driving the country towards a failed state,  causing huge religious, ethnic-based conflicts, humanitarian crisis and instability in the country,  that will have a spillover effect on the Horn of Africa.

A close examination of the country’s political, economic and social conditions under Abiy  Ahmed’s regime bespeaks the state’s fragility. 

During Abiy’s regime, the country has hosted frequent conflicts across all the ethnically  organized regional states. The Southern region was further torn apart into three ethnically  organized regional states. Recent studies document the outbreak of ethnically-motivated  clashes and conflicts in the regions and zones of Afar, Amaro, Kemisse, Benshangul Gumuz,  Bench Sheko (Maji), Gambella, Oromia, Shashemene, Somali, and Tigray. With the rise in  ethno-nationalism, Abiy Ahmed continued to consolidate his personal power over every  dimension of people’s lives including the religious affairs of citizens as evidenced by the  manipulation of the holy synod of the Ethiopia Orthodox Tewahido church. There are no  concrete political commitments and measures by his administration to minimize and stop  ethnically targeted attacks that have killed or evicted Amhara people notably in Oromia and  Benshangul Gumuz regions. Abiy continued to give a lip service to the ethnic clashes that  claimed many lives in the country.  

Under the political games of Abiy’s regime, the humanitarian crisis has deepened with over 22  million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance in Afar, Amhara, Oromia,  Southern people and Tigray regions. Over five million people have been displaced internally,  including one million people of Amhara origin from Oromia state. The government’s response  has been half-hearted, as the regime has been preoccupied with the implementation of  Gaddafi’s style of luxury projects such as building expensive presidential palaces and  developing affluent parks that neither mitigate the humanitarian crisis nor reduce the  country’s extreme poverty. These investments have, instead, generated public resentment  against Abiy’s administration. 

Furthermore, under Abiy, the government has not shown any concerted efforts to counter corruption. Instead, the country has been trapped by uneven economic growth along ethnic  lines. Since he came to power, the political market has been dominated by widespread ethno cultural and religious favoritism, which determines access to key government positions,  strategically located lands and estates, financial loans, government contracts, tax relief and  lucrative jobs. Such behavior contributes to widening inequality and religious favoritism,  which fuels grievances among cross sections of communities, reinforcing political tensions and  increasing disintegration. 

Ethiopia’s economy has shown significant decline ever since Abiy assumed power although the  international financial crisis following COVID-19 and the current Russia-Ukraine war might  have contributed to slower growth as reflected in high youth unemployment rates, inflationary  pressures, and accelerating public debt levels. The country has attracted a very few foreign  investment opportunities, and the purchasing power of the national currency has deeply been  weakened. This has been worsened by high level of corruption, profiteering, illicit financial  transactions such as money laundering and embezzlement.

Various government reports indicate that the Abiy’s regime failed to fulfill the social service  needs of the majority of the people. The situation in the education, housing and employment  sectors and internet connectivity have become critical. Abiy’s regime has also constantly  showed its inability to protect its citizens from ethnically targeted violence caused by armed  groups specially in the Oromia National Regional State, where he himself came from. 

Abiy’s regime and its records on human rights violations are escalating. UN and other  international human right organizations’ reports confirm that the government has committed  widespread abuses of human rights and crimes against humanity. Tens of thousands of  individuals have been detained notably in Oromia, Amhara and Addis Ababa because of their  ethnic background or political affiliation. The detentions of journalists, religious leaders, social  media activists has become a norm. The ethno-politicization of the judiciary system,  deployment and misuse of the military and special security forces for political party agendas,  and the repression of political opponents have become critical as well. The reports of the  Ethiopian Human Rights Commission further attests that the regime has not respected due  legal process when dealing with political prisoners and dissidents. 

Although politically dominant, the Abiy regime continues to struggle with armed groups that  are operating as a “state within a state” often with impunity. Several armed groups such as the  Oromo Liberation Army (Shene) exercise control over extensive geographic areas notably in  west Oromia region, where the political constituencies of Abiy originated. The rise of  factionalized elites and polarization specially among Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray as well as  Gurage, Gambella, Gumuz, Wolaita, Sidama and Somali constitute serious threats to the  functioning of federal and regional government structures, and the existence of a strong  nation. 

All these social, economic and political problems in the country have now created  dissatisfaction among the majority of the population, which threatens the security of Abiy  Ahmed to stay in power. The Abiy regime has been trying to address such political challenges  through building up a dictatorial system characterized by intimidation, fear, human rights  violations and arbitrary detention of protestors and dissidents. Nonetheless, the more the  ethnic and political polarization continues, the Abiy regime could become more repressive. If  unchecked, this would lead to a large scale instability, mass killings, starvation, displacement,  detentions and eventually devastating civil war. 

To prevent the situation from further destabilization and following the playbook of other  countries such as Libya under the Gaddafi regime or Syria under President Bashar Al- Assad;  Abiy himself must facilitate a peaceful transition of power. The current National Dialogue  Commission can be one of the avenues for a peaceful transition when Abiy’s term ends in  about two years. Ethnic-nationals and armed groups as well as rival political parties should  learn from their past failures and cultivate a forward looking political attitude necessary to sit  together in search of a common ground for lifting the country out of its political quagmire. The  public, notably grassroots community-based organizations, should be given free space to 

reconcile differences, reduce tensions and nurture societal cohesion by capitalizing on issues  that unite them than on matters that divide them as a nation. For this, they have to revisit the  ethnic based constitution that has been used as an instrument to divide and rule for the past  three decades. All political parties and elites should foster a culture of civil debate and  dialogue to ease polarization and heal the political scars. They need to forgo ethnically and  religiously charged political games, and abandon the expedient use of toxic and hateful speech  to advance their vested interests. They should focus on reconciliation and building the future  for the younger generation through drawing a new charter based on principles of mutual  respect, equality, diversity, unity, national sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Cristina Taylor is a senior political correspondent, Pretoria, South Africa

Editor’s note : views in the article reflect the views of the writer, not the views of borkena.com 

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6 COMMENTS

    • I think we need to invite more journalists and intellectuals like Cristina Taylor “to mind our business” because we seem to have all lost clarity of perspective and are more ready to fight than to argue rationally.

      • ‘Mahtot,’ you disgust me!

        Why is Ethiopia any of Cristina’s business? What don’t you know that Cristina posted here? She is not writing this to help Ethiopia! What is in it for her in writing this and posting it here?

        Nima El-Bagir [Sudanese] became the White Supremacist West’s darling on CNN, PBS [Democracy Now], etc. for demonizing Abiy & Ethiopia. Is demonizing Abiy & Ethiopia the new ticket to stardom?

        What’s more nauseating is that guys like you also hid behind the Orthodox Church and orchestrated bloodshed! What kind of Christianity is that? You guys are insults to Abuna Petros!

        Charity Starts at Home: Had Cristina cared about Blacks & Human Rights, she should have featured “Apartheid Still Alive in South Africa” in White neighborhoods where Blacks can’t even still set foot!

  1. The Abiy Fact Sheet [Abiy vs. Former Amara-Dominated Tyrant Regimes (FADTR)]:

    I). The FADTR starved Ethiopians [≈1975: “ዋይ! ዋይ! ዋይ!” – ሲሉ – “የረሃብን ጉንፋን ሲስሉ…”], made Ethiopia SYNONYMOUS with “Famine & World’s Poster Child of Poverty”, and turned “We Are the World” in to the World’s National Anthem for Ethiopia! The WSW* & Russia backed them! Why would Ethiopians want them back?

    II). In their ≥50-year-reign, have ALL the FADTR combined done an iota of what Abiy has done for Ethiopia in ≤5 years? Here is a bird’s-eye view of Abiy’s accomplishment:

    1). Abiy kept Ethiopia afloat despite TPLF/OLF/OLA/IFLO*-staged assassination attempt; COVID; Egypt-WSW-orchestrated Riots/Proxy Wars; WSW-imposed drastic Birr devaluation; WSW’s embargo/sanctions, aid/loan cancellations; drought; IDPs; etc.

    2). Abiy kept TPLF-bankrupted Ethiopia afloat with $1 billion from UAE’s Prince MBZ.

    3). Citizen-Rescuing Ethiopia: Released millions of prisoners and emptied over-filled Ethiopian prisons; flew home over 700,000 refugees living degrading/inhumane life; etc.

    4). Unlike the EDI*, Abiy REFUSED to sell Ethiopia to Egypt & Egypt’s WSW Patrons. He also repulsed Proxy Wars unleashed via their Dogs: TPLF, OLF/OLA/IFLO, etc.

    5). Green & Clean Ethiopia: Afforestation Campaign – Ethiopia planted ≥25 billion trees.

    6). Child-Friendly Ethiopia: Feeds 10 million students twice a day; gives free school supplies; built many primary & secondary schools with sale from his Medemer book;

    7). Citizen-Feeding Ethiopia: All-in-one Mega Bakeries built in populous towns sell bread at rock bottom prices; Addis feeds 45,000 twice a day at 15 community centers;

    8). Abiy built a World-Class Robust Ethio Defence Force & Law Enforcement Agencies from scratch WHILE dismantling the ones that served-and-protected TPLF for 27 years;

    9). Abiy built World-Class Industrial Parks that employ thousands of Ethiopians: Akaki-Kaliti, Nazret, Awassa, Debre-Berhan, Bahir-Dar, Kombolcha, Dire-Dawa, Jimma, etc.

    10). Agriculture has flourished: From begging for wheat to surplus; millions of hectares of mechanized & irrigated farms; farmers got hundreds of farm machinery, pumps, etc.

    11). Abiy’s Dinner Fund-Raisers for World-Class Projects [Parks and Tourism]: Mesqel Square, Entoto Park, Unity Park, Friendship Park, Gorgora, Koisha, Wonchi, etc.

    12). Massive miscellaneous projects are completed or on track – AGAINST ALL ODDS:
    i). Electrification [Hydro/Wind/Solar/Geo], industrialization, mechanization, Telecom;
    ii). Addis shot from open-air public toilet [rivers, empty lots, etc.] to world-class city;
    iii). Affordable housing projects, shanty town upgrades, sports facilities, etc.;
    iv). Road Networks: 450 km asphalt in Gojjam alone, Abbay Bridge at Bahir-Dar, etc.

    *IFLO: Islamic Front for Liberation of Oromia – defunct but embedded in OLF/OLA
    *WSW: White Supremacist West /// *EDI: Ethiopian Diaspora Intellectual

  2. Cristina Taylor who? Who is she a ‘political correspondent’ for? Where did she come up with this ‘Gaddafi of Africa’ thing? I tell you, for some with ulterior motives our old country has become an excellent source of income by chicken scratching any nonsense just to fill up blank space of newspapers and magazines starving for real news. We may have not recognize it but the country that produced us all has become a high yield hedge fund market for such correspondent wannabes. ‘Gaddafi of Africa’? What is next for Abiy? Pol Pot, Mao and Stalin all combined into one? We have heard that ‘Hitler’ thing already. Next!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Here we have the man himself, Itu Aba Farda, Chief Defender of the Abiy Criminal Regime.

    Supported by no other than, i_Mognu, who comes up with all sorts of nonsense, continuously.

    A one-man nonsense producing machine!!!

    Between Itu Aba Farda and I-Mgnu, they have corned the market for nonsense.

    Meanwhile, we have continued death and distractions and displacements everywhere in the country, Ethiopia.

    Under Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia has become extremely lawless country and the most prolific jailer of journalists in the world.

    Someone points out to these everyday things in the country, Itu Aba Farda and I-Mgnu accuses them of racism!!!

    We have the most racist government, Abiy Ahmed and his ODP, in the country – they are defending them!!!

    They have been singling out the Amhara and other ethnic groups killing and displacing them in Oromo region.

    And Abiy Ahmed’s facilitating and orchestrating of the killing of Amharas – genocide – on the basis of their ethnicity, is not a problem for Itu Aba Farda and I-Mgnu, but they scream racism about someone writing an article telling the truth.

    Itu Aba Farda and I-Mgnu are Abiy Ahmed’s and his OPDO, ODP, the primitive tribalists, spokesperson.

    Itu Aba Farda and I-Mgnu have never heard of irony.

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